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Adam Peaty, Project 56 met, builds the biggest gap in swimming

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By the numbers, Adam Peaty, not Katie Ledecky, is the most dominant swimmer in history in a single Olympic event.

The British 24-year-old owns the 18 fastest 100m breaststroke times after winning his third straight world title on Monday in Gwangju, South Korea. Peaty came to worlds the lone man to break 58 seconds in the event.

Then in Sunday’s semifinals, he became the first man to break 57, lowering the world record, for the fifth time, to 56.88 and achieving the goal of what he called “Project 56.”

“There’s no word except incredible,” said Peaty, a Greek gods and history buff who after his 2016 Olympic title got several tattoos, including a lion and Poseidon on his left arm. “Obviously I’ve been chasing that for three years now, ever since I touched that board in Rio.”

Peaty is 2.42 percent faster than the second-fastest man in history (Belarusian Ilya Shymanovich, who has gone 58.29), using Shymanovic’s time as the base for the math.

That surpasses Ledecky’s 1.88 and 1.96 percent increases over the second-fastest women in the 800m and 1500m frees, respectively. One event on the world championships program has a larger gap, Sarah Sjostrom in the 50m butterfly (2.55 percent), but the 50m fly is not swum at the Olympics.

So Peaty has that to shoot for. (The biggest gap in track and field appears to be the 4.28 percent separating retired world-record holder Jan Zelezny from the world in the javelin).

In Monday’s final, Peaty expressed a bit of regret after clocking 57.14, even though no other man has ever come within a second of it.

“Ran out of a bit of steam on the back end, but I’m still learning a lot about the event,” he said. “That constant expectation I put on myself is a little bit disappointed in me, but I think that will fuel me for next year because I know how bad I want to go near 56.”

Peaty didn’t realize he could become an Olympian until watching the 2012 London Games at age 17.

He burst onto the scene two years later in an event where Great Britain had not earned an Olympic or world title since 1988, going from ranked No. 168 in the world in 2012, to No. 11 in 2013 to No. 1 in 2014 and breaking the world record for the first time in 2015.

“I’ve got a lot of learning to do, a lot of pacing to do,” Peaty said in Gwangju. “We’ve always said, do it once, do it twice, do it better.”

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Mark Cavendish’s Tour de France streak ends

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Mark Cavendish, who owns the second-most stage wins in Tour de France history, will miss the three-week Grand Tour for the first time since 2006.

Cavendish, a 34-year-old sprinter, owns 30 Tour de France stage victories, second only to Belgian legend Eddy Merckx‘s 34. But Cavendish last won a stage in 2016 and has struggled since being diagnosed with the energy-sapping Epstein-Barr virus in 2017.

Cavendish was not named in Dimension Data’s eight-man team for the Tour that starts Saturday.

He failed to finish the last three Tours de France.

Cavendish’s heyday was 2009-11, when he won 16 Tour de France stages. Peter Sagan has since emerged as the world’s top sprinter and this month will try to break Erik Zabel‘s record seven green jersey titles.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

MORE: NBC Sports launches Cycling Pass for 2019-20 season

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Alistair Brownlee, double Olympic triathlon champ, wins Ironman debut, eyes Kona

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Alistair Brownlee, the only triathlete with multiple Olympic titles, added an Ironman victory in his debut at the distance in Cork, Ireland, on Sunday, though the 2.4-mile swim was canceled.

The Brit earned a spot at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, on Oct. 12 and intends to race there.

“That’s one of the reasons I came today,” Brownlee said. “I’ve hopefully got a few years in me. I’ll be going to Kona this year for very much a bit of a learning experience and see how it goes.”

Brownlee, who has said he is undecided on a Tokyo 2020 run, made up a 16-minute, 56-second deficit after the 112-mile bike to win in 7:49:20. The field lacked the world’s best Ironman triathletes, like Germans Patrick Lange and Jan Frodeno (2008 Olympic champion). The 2.4-mile swim was canceled due to poor weather.

Olympic-distance triathlons are a .93-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike and a 6.25-mile run.

Many triathletes have signaled the end of Olympic careers when moving up to the Ironman, such as Frodeno and two-time U.S. Olympian Sarah True. But Brownlee did not seem ready to join them.

“I’d love to be [in Tokyo], but I only want to be there if I feel I can be competitive,” he said after winning the European Championship for a fourth time on June 2, according to the Press Association.

Brownlee, 31, reportedly said in August that he was “50-50” on going for Tokyo and had to decide between focusing on Olympic or Ironman distances.

He won four half Ironmans between 2017 and 2018 (sandwiched by a hip surgery), then finished second to Frodeno at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship on Sept. 2.

MORE: Katie Zaferes leads U.S. sweep of World Triathlon Series podium

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